Archive for  March 4th 2019

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DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the big topics this legislative session involves two bills that would legalize sports wagering. But as legislators decide if Iowans can start making bets with March Madness right around the corner, others are making sure the state is helping those with gambling addiction during Problem Gambling Awareness Month in March.

The [Iowa Department of Public Health’s] official position on this is that we are monitoring,” Eric Preuss, the Problem Gambling Treatment and Prevention Program manager for IDPH said. “We want to make sure that we are giving good information to legislators to make the best informed decision to have the best legislation in place to protect Iowans.”

IDPH estimates only 14 percent of Iowans are at risk for gambling problems. But Eric Preuss says that problem grows exponentially for sports bettors because they usually are drawn into other gambling as well.

He says 16 percent of Iowa adults already gamble on sports, from office pools to fantasy sports and illegal bets.

“We would be kidding ourselves to say ‘well, there are no Iowans involved in the black market,’ well they are and we just want to be ready, as if this legislation passes, as they move into the regulated sports wagering, that they are aware that there are consumer protections,” Preuss said.

Already, Iowa is in the top 10 of funding gambling problem treatment and awareness services in the country. The state dedicates about $2.6 million a year to help responsible gambling.

They now have text, live chats, and calls available 24-7 at 1-800-bets-off for anyone struggling with gambling.

At least 22 people were killed and dozens more were injured Sunday when powerful tornadoes swept through eastern Alabama, authorities said.

The deaths were in Lee County, on the Georgia border, Sheriff Jay Jones said Sunday night. East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, the county seat, said that it was treating more than 40 patients and that an undetermined number of others had been sent to hospitals.

Jones said the ages of the dead hadn’t been fully determined. “We do have some children, unfortunately,” he said, adding that the number of deaths was expected to rise overnight.

The Lee County Emergency Management Agency, or EMA, said the worst of the damage was near the town of Beauregard.

“This is a day of destruction for Lee County,” County Coroner Bill Harris told NBC affiliate WSFA of Montgomery. “We’ve never had a mass fatality situation, that I can remember, like this in my lifetime.”

Gov. Kay Ivey declared a statewide emergency. President Donald Trump urged residents in the region to “be careful and safe.”

The tornadoes touched down amid a severe weather outbreak across the Southeast, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s a widespread storm,” Brian Hastings, director of the Alabama Management Agency, said in an interview with WSFA, who said state EMA and transportation officials were already in Lee County to respond.

“We have historic flooding to the north and historic flooding on the Tombigbee [River], and now this storm system that just went through, and now we’re getting reports of significant damage” in several neighboring counties, Hastings said.

Opelika Fire Chief Byron Prather said several homes had been destroyed, creating serious fire hazards as propane leaked from damaged tanks.